'I don't know about you, but I've had a snootful of that shit!'... Trumka, unions warning Obama, Democrats to stop selling out to banks, Wall Street
For the second time in a week, leaders of the nation's largest labor unions â€” and the AFL-CIO itself â€” warned conservative Democrats (and by implication the Obama administration) that the time of compromise with the nation's billionaires and taking for granted the unions and the nation's working people was over.
The latest warning came in a speech delivered by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to National Nurses United, as reported (through Portside) in The Nation on June 7, 2011, Trumka put it as bluntly as he has so far: "'For too long, weave been left after Election Day holding a canceled check, waving it about â€” `Remember us? Remember us? Remember us?' â€” asking someone to pay a little attention to us,' recalled Trumka, who like many union leaders was frustrated with the failure of the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and other needed labor law reforms. 'Well, I don't know about you, but I've had a snootful of that shit!'"
Chicago union members, who are planning a major protest against the banks and corporate America on June 14, have a particularly poignant memory of the cowardly retreat of the Obama administration on the Employee Free Choice Act.
The key person persuading Barack Obama to abandon the AFL-CIO's central organizing demand (and one that Obama had agreed to) was Chicagoan Penny Pritzker, the most prominent member of the billionaire Pritzker family and an owner and board member of Hyatt Hotels Inc. News reports revealed that after teachers and other union workers elected Barack Obama in 2008, Penny Pritzker led a group of the nation's wealthiest hotel (and "hospitality") owners and executives in urging the newly elected President to ignore his promise to support labors "Free Choice Act."
Obama followed the urgings of the woman who had served as his campaign finance chair, and ignored the millions of workers who had just elected him. The Employee Free Choice Act was dead because the President who had promised to support it broke his promise.
At the time, much of the White House strategy was overseen by Rahm Emanuel. Since then, Emanuel has left the White House, gotten himself elected Mayor of Chicago with billionaires' backing, and appointed Penny Pritzker and other millionaires to the seven-member Chicago Board of Education.
BELOW HERE IS THE NATION REPORT ON TRUMKA'S SPEECH TO NATIONAL NURSES UNITED
AFL's Trumka on Pols Selling Out Workers: 'I've Had a Snootful of This S**t!', by John Nichols, The Nation Blog, June 8, 2011
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent his strongest signal yet about the labor movement's frustration with the dysfunctional politics of the moment â€” where Republicans go to extremes on behalf of big banks and multinational corporations, Democrats compromise and working families are left out of the equation.
Speaking Tuesday to the National Nurses United conference in Washington, where more than one thousand nurses from across the country rallied to begin the push to replace the politics of setting for less with a unapologetic demands for a new economic agenda, Trumka found a plenty of takers for his aggressively progressive message.
"We want an independent labor movement strong enough to return balance to our economy, fairness to our tax system, security to our families and moral and economic standing to our nation," declared Trumka, who in recent months has been repositioning the AFL-CIO as a force that will hold Republicans and Democrats to what he describes as "a simple standard: "Are they helping or hurting working families?"
"We can't simply build the power of any political party or any candidate. For too long weave been left after the election holding a canceled check and asking someone to pay attention to us. No more! No more!" the federation president, a former United Mineworkers union chief, shouted
above the cheers of the nurses.
Then he described a scenario all too familiar to union activists: that of trying to get officials who are supposed to be allies of the working Americans to act on their behalf with the same energy that Republicans bring to aiding corporations.
"For too long, we've been left after Election Day holding a canceled check, waving it about â€” `Remember us? Remember us? Remember us?' â€” asking someone to pay a little attention to
us," recalled Trumka, who like many union leaders was frustrated with the failure of the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and other needed labor law reforms. "Well, I don't know about you, but I've had a snootful of that shit!"
There was no way to misread Trumka's message for Democrats who have strayed on issues ranging from EFCA to trade policy to mounting an absolute defense of Medicare, Medicaid and
"When it comes to politics, we're looking for real champions of working women and men. And I have a message for some of our "friends." It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside - the outcome is the same either way," he explained. "If leaders ardent blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be - now, in 2012 and beyond."
Trumka chose exactly the right setting in which to deliver that message. The NNU (which also welcomed this writer as a speaker at its gathering) has long advocated for a more militant stance when it comes to politics, as evidenced this week by the union's mass protest outside the headquarters of the US Chamber of Commerce. As the nurses blocked traffic, NNU executive director Rose Ann DeMoro led the crowd in chanting "Our street!" and then pointing at the Chamber building and shouting "Wall Street!"
That determination to take the fight to Wall Street is at the heart of the NNU's new "Main Street Contract for the American People" that, among other things, demands that elected officials take a "Which Side Are You On?" pledge.
The pledge contrasts Wall Street's push for "tax cuts for the rich and powerful" and "replacing Medicare with vouchers" with a Main Street Contract that seeks:
1. Jobs at living wages to reinvest in America.
2. Equal access to quality, public education.
3. Guaranteed healthcare with a single standard of care.
4. A secure retirement with the ability to retire in dignity.
5. Good housing, and protection from hunger.
6. A safe and healthy environment.
7. The right to collectively organize and bargain.
8. A just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.
9. Restoring the promise - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
As Trumka speaks about that "simple standard" to demand of elected officials, politicians and their parties, he and the rest of the labor movement could find few better places of beginning than that pledge to support the NNU's "Main Street Contract for the American People."
[John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.]
COMPLETE PREPARED TEXT OF THE JUNE 7, 2011, TRUMKA SPEECH BELOW HERE:
Remarks for AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, National Nurses United Assembly, Washington, DC, June 07, 2011
Thank you, Rose Ann [DeMoro], for inviting me here today â€“ there's nowhere I'd rather be and there's nobody I'd rather be standing beside.
And thank you, nurses! It's great to see each and every one of you in Washington! I love the way nurses fight for patients, for quality care, for fairness and progressive values!
You're standing tall all across our country, and you make the entire labor movement better for it! You make America better every single day.
And let me tell you this, your nine points that together describe our shared values, truly illustrate your commitment to all the working men and women, all the children and all the seniors of our communities and our country.
Your commitment to a single-payer health care system is inspiring, and the idea of paying for it with a financial speculation tax is just.
And let me congratulate you on your tremendous organizing successes in Florida and Texas, and on winning your contract at Washington Hospital Center!
Your organizing and your actions, including your daylong strike right here in DC, are powerful statements for middle-class standards. Back in early March, I went down to Washington Hospital Center â€“ one of the most renowned hospitals in Washington -- and I rallied with the nurses there.
A few weeks earlier, I was told, only two nurses had been scheduled overnight to work in Labor and Delivery. Two nurses!
That night, each nurse carried a patient load of six women who were delivering babies. That meant that each nurse cared for 12 patients. Six moms and six newborns! That's too many. Thank God there were no emergencies, and thank you for speaking up about it!
Why were only two nurses scheduled? Not for a lack of money, I can tell you that. And not for a lack of quality nurses.
No, two were scheduled because two is cheaper than three.
Without your voice, two nurses would have been scheduled in Labor and Delivery, until there was an emergency, until something went terribly wrong, until a tragedy occurred, and that is not OK.
Without your voice, the Wall Street ethic would have continued to run rampant at Washington Hospital Center â€“ and at health care facilities all over America.
Your work's not done there, but you've made your mark. It takes nurses who truly care about quality care to raise a stink about staffing decisions, so patients don't have to suffer.
And it takes nurses who truly care about a fair shake for Main Street to raise a stink about the Wall Street agenda, so working Americans don't have to suffer!
You won't be quiet, will you? No. I know you won't be silenced.
You know, it's the same thing all over. Right here in Washington, politicians are fighting over how much to cut from our federal budget, but not because America's broke. The fact is, our nation has never been richer!
This deficit hysteria is an excuse, nothing less, for politicians to pay back their Wall Street backers with more tax cuts.
Instead of downsizing, American needs jobs â€” jobs with living wages.
Instead of demonizing teachers, we need to prepare our children for the future by making sure every single one of them has access to quality public education.
Instead of downgrading public pensions, we need to make sure all working people have solid retirement security.
Let me say it again: America is not broke.
But working people feel poor because our nation's wealth has all gone to only a handful among us, and they and the Wall Street politicians would rather break promises to our parents and grandparents and deny our children a future than pay their fair share of taxes.
Still, a lot of people are saying, "I don't need government services. I made it on my own and you should, too." But I say to anybody who buys into that myth: We didn't build this country with a philosophy that says, "I got mine." My father and grandfather didn't get out of the mines alive by taking care only of themselves. We did it with each other, for each other. United.
Some of us may have climbed the ladder, but all of us built the ladderâ€”we make it possible with our public education system, our local governments and our roads and highways.
In the labor movement, we're all about that ladder.
We built that ladder for our families and neighbors, and do you know what makes that ladder strong? It's the voice on the job and the security that comes from a union contract. That's how we turn bad jobs into good jobsâ€”that's how we build a ladder to the middle class.
That's what we are. That's what we do.
Together, we're going to build up our working families, and return America to prosperity the only way it's ever been done -- by working people standing shoulder-to-shoulder and fighting for what's right -- and we won't be quiet until we win!
And together with the AFL-CIO's construction and manufacturing workers, pilots and painters, plumbers and public employees, engineers and bakers and others, we will be heard.
Sisters and brothers, let's use our voice to piece together the fabric of America's common life, by holding our elected leaders accountable.
We'll hold them to a simple standard: Are they helping or hurting working families?
And we'll build up our labor movementâ€”in the workplace and in political life.
We want an independent labor movement strong enough to return balance to our economy, fairness to our tax system, security to our families and moral and economic standing to our nation.
We can't simply build the power of any political party or any candidate. For too long we've been left after the election holding a canceled check and asking someone to pay attention to us. No more! No more!
Our goal is not to help candidates or parties, our goal is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country, and that's what we're going to do.
When it comes to politics, we're looking for real champions of working women and men. And I have a message for some of our "friends." It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing asideâ€”the outcome is the same either way.
If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will beâ€”now, in 2012 and beyond.
We will uphold the dignity of work and restore respect for working people.
This year, teachers, nurses and firefighters have been vilified.
Decent jobs with economic security have been cast as more than America's workers deserve. Low-wage, part-time, temporary, no-benefit work is being sold as the "new normal" for our economy. Well, that "new normal" is not good enough. And you've taken a stand against it, and so have working people all across America. We've been given a moment, and it's our job to turn this moment into a movement. It has to be a movement for jobs.
It has to be a movement big enough for every worker who wants to form a union to bargain for a better life.
It has to be a movement to fight against intimidation, and for an economy that honors the dignity of all workers and our fundamental freedoms every single day.
We'll work for it. We'll stand for it -- Together. To bring out the best in America. To bring out the best in ourselves, and each other.
To build the future we know we can have, we must have, for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren.
And we will never, ever back down.
It's time to stand together against the worst of Wall Street, with the best of America.
Stand for those who want to work but who cannot find jobs, for the families fighting to keep their homes out of foreclosure, for the workers trying to keep jobs that are good enough to support families and send kids to college, for our veterans and young people, for health care workers, for private workers, for public workers, for all workers.
Thank you, and God bless you and the work you do.